Wrapping up Women’s History Month: Reflection and reinvention

Wrapping+up+Women%E2%80%99s+History+Month%3A+Reflection+and+reinvention

Bel Carden, Staff Writer

As March comes to an end, the University wraps up Women’s History Month celebrations. With this, we reflect on how this month came to celebrate women, its importance given the significant strides in recent times and how the University celebrates and regards women—in March and every day. 

The History behind Women’s History Month

The month-long celebration originated from a week-long holiday back in 1978 where the school district of Sonoma, Calif. would hold events celebrating women and their contributions to history, society and so much more. This week consisted of a presentation given at the school, an essay contest surrounding the importance of female role models and a parade held in the downtown area.

As more and more communities started to follow this example and hold their own “Women’s History Week,” U.S. President Jimmy Carter finally declared the first official Women’s History Week in 1980 during the week of March 8. The following year, Congress passed a resolution that ultimately established this as a national celebration. However, the efforts to make sure women and their roles were properly recognized were not enough. Eventually, the National Women’s History Project was able to petition Congress to dedicate the entire month of March to women’s history in 1987. March has since been an established time to reflect on important female role models throughout history as well as in our own lives—working to build a better understanding of just how foundational women figures have been to the history of the United States.

Women in 2021

Although the past year did have some monumental milestones for women–such as the United States electing the first-ever female Vice President, Time Magazine’s first ever kid-of-the-year which featured young women in science and the many women stepping into leadership roles to battle the COVID-19 pandemic — there is undoubtedly much work to still be done to combat the sexist tendencies ingrained in our society. Females still experience high rates of sexual violence, are still denied basic healthcare treatments and are paid less than men on average. It is reasons such as these, and so many more, that Women’s History Month is so important and must continue to be commemorated. Beyond that, the thinking and attention that comes with this month should exist every month and more.

Furthermore, in light of recent violence against the Asian American women, it is even more important now than ever to remain vigilant and aware. This violence stems from many deep-rooted systemic inequities, to highlight the intersectionality of these larger societal issues.

Women at the University

With the University’s student population being more than 50 percent female and the gender demographics of professors featuring a notable number of females (although the majority is still male), Women’s History Month and the broader issue of women’s rights is prevalent on our very own campus.

One way in which the University dedicates itself to its female community members is through the Women’s and Gender Studies major and minor, which promotes the education and knowledge of womanhood, and all the issues that surround it, itself. Since the Women’s and Gender Studies program was created, it has created many of the most popular courses and events on campus. Many of these courses are cross listed in the Humanities, English, Philosophy, Psychology, Political Science, Religion, Anthropology, Geography and even Economics departments to further highlight the intersectionality of such topics.

This past Monday, the first session of the Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) Student Speaker Series took place; three seniors presented their work on the following topics: “Gender Based Discrimination at Bucknell University,” “A Contemporary Understanding and Analysis of Interpersonal Violence” and “Diabetes Disparities.” Be sure to look out for the upcoming sessions in this series to support fellow students and learn from their work in Women’s and Gender Studies.

Meredith Sullivan ’21, one of the seniors who presented her work in the WGS series, proudly said, “The Women’s and Gender Studies department has shaped me into the strong feminist I am today. Through the different courses offered and the support from my professors, I have learned to think critically about how the world around me and how I can make the world a better place.”

One Women’s and Gender Studies and Psychology double major, Madison Lance ’22, explained what Women’s History Month means to her: “It is a time of appreciation in which I am refueled on the countless feminist that never gave up. The inspiration that comes from acknowledging women’s work is invaluable to future endeavors.”

Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Erica Delsandro, states, “When I think about Women’s History Month this year, I have mixed feelings.” She goes on to explain her confliction surrounding women’s current place in society: “There is a woman of color in the position of Vice President of the United States and at the same time AAPI women are violently targeted, trans women are the focus of many discriminatory bills in states across the country, women and marginalized folks are experiencing extreme harassment and sexualized violence and women (and caregivers of all genders) are feeling the increased, pandemic-derived burden of domestic and familial responsibilities on one hand and professional precarity on the other.” Essentially, there is “much to celebrate and much to still fight for.”

Delsandro also provided some context on why there was a lack (or more so a complete absence) of University events to celebrate the month on campus this year. On the academic side, this is due to the fact that the Director of the Women’s Resource position is currently empty. From 2017 to last year, Kelsey Hicks had fulfilled this role. In past years, the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) has “hosted exhibits or timelines, events or book clubs, and even encouraged a social media campaign of sorts (post your favorite women in history, or something like that),” Delsandro said. “Some years there has been a speaker, too.” This being said, the fact that no academic department held a single event to specifically commemorate Women’s History Month could be telling about how where we are as a community.

Beyond the WGS department and the WRC, there are many individuals — both students and professors — on campus who foster the attitude that Women’s History Month is meant to highlight. Associate Professor of Mathematics Lara Dick reflects on what the month means to her as a woman in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). “For me, Women’s History Month is a reminder to be thankful for growing up surrounded by strong women role models.” She goes on to share: “For undergrad, I attended a women’s college. It wasn’t until I entered my masters program that I realized just how different my experiences in STEM classes had been because I had taken them all with other women. I believe women can become anything they want and that we should fight to push back barriers that seek to box us into gender roles.” Dick concludes with the sentiment that “Women’s History Month is a time for us to tell our stories and to highlight the stories of those who have come before us making the way forward just a bit easier.”

Reflection

“As we reflect on the end of Women’s History Month, I am inspired by the accomplishments of so many women who are trailblazers, as well as the incredible work being done by women here on Bucknell’s campus,” Sullivan said. She also shared that “the Bucknell Student Government Advocacy Committee held several snaptalk events with professors who are trailblazers in their fields and on campus. As a young woman about to enter the workforce, it was inspiring to hear the advice and experiences of these incredible professors.”

She is not alone, as all young women within the University community are pursuing not only careers but also full lives in the world—and, in doing so, they are growing the definition of “woman.”   

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